At the core, the most fundamental need of any leader is to induce others to follow and execute the mission and vision of the enterprise. Therefore, any discussion of effective leadership must begin with an investigation into human behavior and answer the question of “What makes people tick?”
The primary or most simplistic definition of a leader is someone who others follow. Factoring out all other issues, including the success and integrity of the enterprise, the leader must be judged by this simple ability.
All human behavior stems from two basic desires: to gain rewards or avoid punishment. Therefore, the foundational strategy for enabling others to follow must be identifying and providing the benefits the followers seek.
Here is where it becomes tricky as a leader. Do you know what is most important to followers in terms of earning rewards and avoiding punishment? It’s easy to get lost on this one. We all know the business adage: people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit; they want a quarter-inch hole. Are you focused on the drill bit or the hole?
For example, if you are a business leader, compensation is one of the primary rewards individuals are looking for. So, it’s perfectly natural for you to put a lot of time and energy into creating a “perfect” compensation package. It’s easy to believe this is critical in attracting and retaining the most qualified business candidates. Yet, as important as compensation is, it is the drill bit and not the hole.
In every management survey ever conducted, money is never the reason people fail to follow their leaders. The reasons employees follow or do not follow a leader are based upon how a leader makes them feel. The feeling is the quarter-inch hole.
Leadership is a form of sales. Like selling, leadership is the transference of emotion. People do not act until they feel like taking action. As a leader, creating positive emotions around your ideas, plans, and vision should be your primary objective.
The most powerful and effective leaders of any movement, enterprise, or business offer emotionally centered rewards. They spend their time creating, engaging, and offering others emotional compensation. To get people in motion, you must appeal to their emotions. Cutting to the chase, the number one reason people leave their jobs is emotional; they don’t feel appreciated or recognized.
Words of appreciation without the accompanying feeling behind them are empty and hollow. The leader must transfer authentic feelings of appreciation. The challenge for every leader is to maintain the emotional content to later convey to their followers. Without maintaining our own reservoirs of appreciative feelings, we have nothing to share with others.
Great visionary leaders have the ability to maintain, tap into, and communicate positive emotions. These emotions create feelings of ownership, caring, and connection to something more significant than themselves. These feelings are what people genuinely seek from their jobs.
This story illustrates how a leader can create and maintain the emotional state needed to be effective:
You See the World as You Are
The executive had reached a crossroads in his career. Deeply troubled and feeling uninspired and somewhat depressed, his followers no longer saw him as a powerful leader. He had lost the ability to influence others and get things done. The success he had created was in jeopardy.
Realizing the urgency to address this issue, he sought out the help of a highly regarded executive coach. Upon meeting the executive and listening to his story, the coach said, “I’m not sure if I can help you. But I do know one person, a guru of sorts, who can surely provide you with the advice you need. He is a bit unorthodox in his approach, but he has the power to help you turn things around.”
The executive called the guru and was invited to have tea with the teacher in his garden. The guru was happy to help and confident he could provide the needed direction, but he gave one condition: the executive had to promise he would follow the advice given. The executive agreed.
“Very well,” the sage said, “but I’m afraid it may be too difficult for you. Here is my advice: whatever you do, you must enjoy it, or you cannot do it. No matter what it is, if you find that you are not enjoying it, you must stop right at that moment. It doesn’t matter if you are driving your car, eating, doing your work, or anything else. If you are not enjoying it, you may not do it. It is up to you to find a way to enjoy whatever you are doing. Do you understand?”
For a moment, the executive’s eyes were wide open. Then, as the suggestion settled in, his eyes narrowed, and his mouth tightened with disbelief. “That’s impossible! No one can enjoy everything they do. Besides, there aren’t many things that are fully enjoyable. You’re just trying to trick me or have fun at my expense!”
The guru smiled. “As I expected, this might be too hard for you. But I must tell you that there is nothing else that will solve your problem. Now go! Spend a year doing what I have suggested, and then come back and see me.”
A year later, the executive returned. His face was glowing with exuberance.
“Good,” said the teacher. “Now that you love the world, perhaps you can be of some use to it.”